IRAQ: Hostile Environment Training: Making Hard Choices

“Smoking kills,” the Syrian rebel commander flashed his AK-47 when I offered him one of my colleague’s cigarettes while we were awaiting our next move just inside the border of southern Syria. We had just evaded an ambush and what appeared to be a chemical gas explosion before following the commander deeper into the woods toward the Syrian Army chemical weapons barracks. His irony wasn’t lost on either of us. Over the next hour and a half, my colleagues and I would get lost, get found, get stopped at an armed checkpoint, lose our driver to a sniper and reconfigure our bearings – physically, emotionally and mentally – as a training exercise in reporting from hostile environments. In reality, we were in the idyllic throes of a glorious English summer afternoon

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in Herefordshire. But in our alter universe, we were sliding around gravel paths navigating the uncertain Syrian hillside. Our team, a reporter from a UK newspaper and an experienced security expert for a private German-based company, was roll playing

as a news team assigned to a special interview with a French-based doctor who had evidence of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. As a bonus, we’d head further into the rebel-held forest to interview a rebel commander, who’d also confirm the use of chemical weapons (and who may have ordered their use himself). Before we left, our team viagranorx-canadianpharma discussed contingencies we’d been taught. Although we are trained in first aid, would we, for example, medicaid cover cialis stop if we encountered a traffic accident? I was emphatic – that we not stop. We could endanger our own lives, we could further endanger the lives of the injured if we, as westerners, enraged local villagers with our presence, we could enrage our interviewees cialisotc-norxcialis if we were known to have helped “the enemy.” Plus, our “mission” was to get a couple of interviews and get out; we had a responsibility to the people who were taking risks to talk to us and to coordinate our movements. Nevertheless, our uncommunicative driver/fixer “Tomase,” costumed in a long robe, keffiyeh and skullcap, insisted on pulling over at a roadside accident, claiming the victims were his cousins. Our first dilemma: Stay with the plan, or make alternative arrangements? Although we’d been united in our intention, our team wasn’t united in its response. I was adamant that we not stay and annoyed mail order viagra legitimate that our driver was off doing his own thing. The risk management guy sprung to first aid, figuring the sooner we fix our driver’s “cousin,” the no prescription viagra faster we’d get out of there. I finally took the driver firmly by the shoulders and propelled him back in to the car, a move I’d not get away with as a woman in the Middle East. I secured a reputation as the bitch who refused to be a Good Samaritan. “There are no right answers,” our instructor intoned, and I believed him. Yet, I felt the need to defend – beyond my logistical and safety concerns – why I’d been so rigid in my boundary-setting. I explained over dinner that night: I have only so much to give. People’s stories stay with me. When I visited Iraqi refugee hospitals in Damascus, for example, injured people swarmed around me desperate to share their stories, their wounds. They thrust their children in my arms, they lifted their shirts to bare their scars, they screamed and raged. It took me hours to leave. It took me weeks to shake my profound helplessness. It was overwhelming, exhausting, dispiriting. “I have only so much,” I tried to explain to my instructors over our lamb dinner. “The medical stuff isn’t my strong suit, but I can tell their

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